New Light on the Most Ancient East

New Light on the Most Ancient East

New Light on the Most Ancient East

New Light on the Most Ancient East

Excerpt

Though most of the fifteen years since the last edition appeared has been occupied by destructive war, the period has witnessed so many discoveries in the Near and Middle East as to fill new chapters and so unexpected as to render others obsolete. Perhaps the most unexpected fresh material comes from the metropolitan cemetery of Memphis at Saqqara under the First Egyptian Dynasty and from contemporary tombs, some already built of stone, on the opposite bank of the Nile near Helwan, while a sequence of 'predynastic' cultures has at last been established in Lower Egypt to compare with that familiar for fifty years from Upper Egypt. Palestine-Syria alone would have provided material for a new chapter, since there the period before 2000 B.C., almost unknown in 1935, is now illustrated by a well-documented sequence of rich cultures. But in Mesopotamia itself, the neolithic prelude, previously only a postulate, has begun to take shape since 1941. In the Indus basin Wheeler's inspired excavations have at length provided some concrete data for a reconstruction of the sociology as well as the material culture of a civilization that, while fully literate, remains for us still prehistoric. The revelation of monumented architecture in stone in First Dynasty Egypt, the recognition of superbly naturalistic portrait sculpture in Sumer in the IVth. millennium, and the rehabilitation of equally naturalistic portraiture in the Indus Valley demand new photographic illustrations as well as a revaluation of the principles of civilized art.

Perhaps the general outlines of the hazy picture, sketched in 1935, have not changed beyond recognition; they are a little sharper in places and many rich details have been filled in. So the general form of presentation has been retained though divided somewhat differently. The reader should, however, be apprised in advance of three minor changes. Excavators of tells quite naturally number the superimposed settlements or temples in the order in which they find them -- from the top downwards. Other readers may find it hard to remember that the first temple at a site was really the last to be built there, the oldest building being numbered perhaps '16'! But settlements and temples, thus discovered, have by now . . .

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